By Seth Daniel
Working his paddle through glass-like water, J.J. Zhou speaks from experience when he says the Malden River is a hidden jewel in Boston for the sport of rowing.
After four years on the crew team for Tufts University, which is based on the Malden River across from Everett’s Seven-Acre Park, Zhou said he has logged some great excursions and has really enjoyed the time – as long as he didn’t fall in.
“This river is one of the best rowing rivers in Boston, compared to the Charles River especially,” he said last Thursday morning. “It’s less traveled and protected here. We have a place on the Mystic River too, but it’s not as good as here either. On days like this when it’s very peaceful and very quiet, there’s very little traffic on it…It’s not as bad as people would think. It’s nice being on the water. On good days, you feel like you’re flying on this river. On bad days, it feels like the worst thing you could ever do.”
The Tufts Crew Team has been located on the Malden River for 11 years, but many people from Everett have no idea the team trains there, just as they have no idea that the river is a nice stretch for boats. That has become a little less mysterious over the last few years as the Everett High School Crew team began to train with Tufts on the Malden River.
That said, Zhou mentioned that many people still don’t know, and they get a lot of young people yelling at them.
“We like being here a lot because there aren’t many rowers and it is very protected,” he said. “However, people are always yelling at us on the bridges. On the one hand, that’s good because they see what we’re doing, but on the other hand it’s a distraction for our training regimen. I’m surprised we’ve been here for 11 years and still people don’t know. This is a good piece of training water.”
Last Thursday morning, Zhou – who just graduated this month from Tufts – said he rowed from the Malden River boathouse to Medford Square and to the Mystic River, turning around at the dam and then coming back to the boathouse.
“This is perfect, but even on days when there are 20 mph winds, this is much better than the Charles River,” he said. “It could use some cleaning, certainly. I fell in there a few times over the last four years. Every time I came up, my socks weren’t useful anymore. The sediment is pretty bad.”
Even so, after four years with the ups and downs of rowing on the Malden River, he would fully recommend it to anyone who wants to get out on the water.
“It’s a great piece of water and I would say from a selfish perspective that we keep it a secret, but as long as people know what they’re doing and feel comfortable on the water, I would say go ahead,” said Zhou.